It’s not that I don’t inhale what’s left of the frozen shrimp tempura from my daughters’ plates. Or that I didn’t grow up eating Stouffer’s creamy chicken pot pie once a week. Or that I have anything against a slice or two of Trader Joe’s quattro formaggio frozen pizza. My feeling is…if you can’t break out a good junky frozen dinner every now and then, well, I have to ask: Where is the joy in life? But for the most part, we like to stock our family freezer and pantry with quick-and-dirty packaged foods that a) we feel good about feeding our children and b) that we would eat ourselves. Here is a list of what we fall back on when we are going out (and s#*t! The babysitter is coming in 5!) or when we have nothing in the fridge. Or when the work day has been loooong and the evening with the kids seems soooo tragically short.
PJ’s Organic Chicken Burrito These are a recent discovery. They’re not cheap — I think each goes for about $7 — but you get what you pay for. Good quality ingredients, fresh flavor, and a variety to choose from. I find them at Whole Foods but website says you can find them in the freezer section at national supermarkets and natural food stores.
Black Bean Soup This is our go-to meal for Phoebe when she doesn’t like what everyone else is eating. A quick heat on the stovetop and a dollop of sour cream and it barely feels like I’m doing anything extra. She likes Latin Style from Trader Joe’s that comes in the carton, but we’ve also given her 365 brand from Whole Foods and Amy’s Black Bean Vegetable.
Trader Joe’s Thai Shrimp Gyoza Dumplings We steam these or saute them in a little oil and serve with broccoli. I once made a recipe from the Cooking with Trader Joe’s cookbook which called for tossing the dumplings into chicken broth with some frozen vegetables and a dash of soy sauce. It took about 10 minutes. I’m not sure why I haven’t reprised that one.
Whole Foods 365 Organic Vegetarian Chili Organic and affordable. It’s Phoebe’s favorite, but I often open a can for lunch and top it with a chopped avocado and a little sour cream.
Naked Nuggets These are the un-breaded (so gluten-free) real white meat chicken pieces from the guys behind Blue Ribbon Sushi in New York. I think the genius of them is that you heat them in a little olive oil on the stovetop instead of in the oven. The only problem is that they can be a little hard to find — though their site lists availability at ShopRite and Food Lion among others. My 8-year-old literally gasps when she spies them in the freezer section.
Beans on Toast Let’s not forget this classic.
Hoffman’s Hot Dogs OK, I’ve never actually tried these, but Yolanda’s franks-n-beans dinner over on Momfilter sounds so good that I’m determined to remedy this culinary void immediately and stock up. (Slow-cooker owners encouraged to follow entire recipe.)
Spinach Pizza Snacks Back when Abby was little, the spinach tucked into these little bitesize pockets were the only green vegetable Abby would consume. So there was a stretch there when these graced the table way more often than they probably should have. For reasons I can’t remember, we called them “Fun Pies” and have had luck with other flavors, too — like southwest and spinach and cheese.
Saffron Road Chicken Tikka Masala There is a whole line of these Indian freezer dinners and so far I haven’t tasted one I don’t like. Most take about three minutes in the microwave and come with rice. Add some grape tomatoes or a handful of baby carrots and pat yourself on the back.
PS: Giveaway happening on my Facebook page today!